Here’s something about me- I like to get things done. Keeping a tight schedule, having my ducks in row, always having a plan, keeps me sane. Sitting still is a chore for me, because it feels like I’m wasting time. The amount of times I think “I should…” is far too high, and as a result, I end up getting to the end of the day feeling absolutely drained. I get up early, like, weirdly early, and feel like I’ve lived a whole lifetime when everyone around me is asleep.
When I say early, I don’t mean 6:00 AM. I don’t even mean 5:00. I’m known to be wide awake at 3:30, scrambling for something to do.
And yet, for the longest time, I’ve almost taken pride in this. We live in a culture that glorifies hustle. We want to work harder than anyone else, be more successful than anyone else, be more dedicated than anyone else. We toss around sayings like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and “Forget 9-5, I work 24/7″. We bear industrial sized mugs of coffee and bags under our eyes like badges of honor that prove just how dedicated and hard working we are in a world that never sleeps.
But the truth is, we can’t live this way. In fact, we can barely function this way. Lack of sleep greatly affects our memory, reaction, and learning abilities- and in turn, causing our work efficiency, creativity, and social skills to suffer. We try to act like working ourselves to the bone is the end-all-be-all of success, but when our health suffers, our business suffers.
The average American gets 2 hours less sleep per night than they did in the 1950s. That’s the equivalent to a whole month’s worth of sleep lost every year. Not a month’s worth of nightly sleep, mind you, but a solid month of sleep. And it’s because of technology and the increased demand for constant interaction and information. We can’t leave work at the office anymore- we take it home with us and let it keep us up until the wee hours of the morning.
Regardless of the way the hustle is affecting our sleep health, it’s making our relationships suffer, too. If we’re putting off sleep until we’re dead, why do we spend less time together than ever before? The average family in the UK spends less than eight hours together every week. Mom and Dad are at work all the day. The kids have sports and school. The TV is on and the computers are glowing and the cell phones are buzzing.
It’s not just adults who can’t leave work at the office- kids have an increasing amount of homework across the globe. Students are pressed to take more rigorous AP/Honors courses to get into increasingly picky colleges and universities, all while being expected to maintain extracurriculars, sports, personal relationships, and their health. If a student has about an hour of homework per class, they’re averaging 3-6 hours a night. Even if they started the moment school got out at 3:00 PM, they’d be doing homework until 9:00 at night.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of go go go. It’s happens to all of us. It happens to me.
But the universe had another plan.
I posted on my Instagram the other day:
“Yesterday, I woke up at 3:30 to “get stuff done” before work. Then I rushed out the door before 6:00 without saying goodbye to anyone, and knowing I’d be missing out on my family’s Father’s Day trip because I didn’t want to miss work. …Then my tire blew out on the road and my dad had to save me. And then I pulled a muscle in my back. And then I burned myself trying to make dinner for the family before they got home. I can hear the #universe loud and clear…SLOW DOWN. I’m so caught in the mindset of #hustle and glorifying a #busy life that I’m forgetting to stop and smell the roses. Today I’m dedicating myself to #mindfulness and appreciating all that life has to offer without rushing through it. I’m committing myself to learning how to #justbe again.”
And you know what? Once I took a step back, took a few breaths, and reevaluated, things started to get better. My back healed. My vision expanded from its tunnel vision. I found myself looking around more, appreciating the little things more. My phone wasn’t always in my hand and I wasn’t racing from one place to another.
When the universe talks, listen.